Predictably, whenever the temperatures approach frozen tundra zone in Chicago the evening TV ads for Scottsdale appear. We see Camelback Mountain, glimpses of desert flora and a happy couple relaxing as though at a spa.
Chicago is clearly in the gun sights of Scottsdale’s Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Ask the average Chicagoan without family in the Southwest and they’ll probably think that Scottsdale is where baseball spring training happens and is also one of those places that golfer go to. Indeed, these are Scottsdale fortés.
Yet, there is more to Scottsdale that’s important to know if you find yourself going to Phoenix on business with a few extra days or perhaps looking for a vacation spot.
If you have gone to the Robie House by the University of Chicago and Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Oak Park, and better yet Taliesin in Spring Green and Falling Waters too, you owe yourself a trip to Taliesin West to round out the picture.
You can also see the work of two of Wright’s ex-students—one who designed the 2005-restored Hotel Valley Ho using some of the design tricks from Wright’s playbook
and another, the Cosanti studio of Paolo Soleri, a fierce opponent of the sprawl that Wright among others advocated.
The latter especially will give anyone who is concerned about global sustainability much to chew on.
Although just recently sojourning to Scottsdale obviously meant a welcomed escape from winter cabin fever, it strikes one who thinks of budget travel ideas to think about the area in summer. There are quite a few highlights of the Scottsdale and Phoenix area that would be just as good in the dog days of summer, if not better, when the crowds have thinned.
For starts, make a note that luxury spa resorts such as The Boulders have 75% or better discounts.
Add to that the one-of-a-kind world-class Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix,
which can easily merit two relaxed days to take in all that it has to offer.
The Heard Museum gives you an excellent tour of Native American history in the Southwest in just 45 minutes. Its katsina doll collection and other treasures are a good warm-up for getting lost in the magnificent National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian.
If you can’t make it to the Heard Museum try to catch one of the week’s two outdoor celebrations of Native American food, music and dance that the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsors.
I have a treasured memory of walking the grounds of the Desert Botanical Garden near sunset in the summer and feeling like it was my personal garden expanse since nobody else seemed to be in the gardens at the time.
Locals might be trained to stay indoors in summer giving you more elbow room and a few days of that good dry desert heat.
While Chicagoans have little reason to travel to sate foodie instincts it’s good to know that at every price point you will find ample options in Scottsdale. It boasts more restaurants per capita than Manhattan. It was quite a surprise to find that one of the better restaurants, Café ZuZu, was in a hotel, as most travelers know that is rarely the case. Having sampled two of Chef Carter’s restaurants – The Mission and The House Brasserie—it’s easy to imagine that a priority for a return trip will be to sample his third, or fourth if he spawns yet another.
Chicagoans also have little reason to venture beyond River North for art buys but not so if you have a hankering for Native American or Western Art. This is where Scottsdale’s art scene and festive artwalk really shines.
Walking about on weekend early mornings to look at Scottsdale’s extensive display of public art installations should be a pleasure for any traveler—big ticket and budget alike.
What you just can’t get in Chicago is the desert beauty—whether it’s the birds-eye view from a Desert Splash seaplane adventure,
biking the trails in a spa resort, watching sunrise at Camelback Mountain or again,
soaking up that inimitable Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.
The United States is a beautiful country and the big skies and desert hues of Scottsdale won’t let you forget it.
Visit the official tourism site for Scottsdale for more information.